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Are Political Orientations Genetically Transmitted?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 June 2005

Rice University
Virginia Commonwealth University
University of Nebraska


We test the possibility that political attitudes and behaviors are the result of both environmental and genetic factors. Employing standard methodological approaches in behavioral genetics—specifically, comparisons of the differential correlations of the attitudes of monozygotic twins and dizygotic twins—we analyze data drawn from a large sample of twins in the United States, supplemented with findings from twins in Australia. The results indicate that genetics plays an important role in shaping political attitudes and ideologies but a more modest role in forming party identification; as such, they call for finer distinctions in theorizing about the sources of political attitudes. We conclude by urging political scientists to incorporate genetic influences, specifically interactions between genetic heritability and social environment, into models of political attitude formation.

© 2005 by the American Political Science Association

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